Updated: Mar 7
Are microgreens just a trend or are they really healthier than mature vegetables?
I recently read this study the was published in Frontiers in Nutrition: Plant Nutrition by Carolyn F. Weber: Broccoli Microgreens: A mineral rich crop that can diversify food systems. It was chocked full of facts about microgreens – broccoli specifically.
What even is a microgreen?
“Microgreens are edible seedlings that are usually harvested 7–14 days after germination when they have two fully developed cotyledon leaves. A wide variety of herbs... vegetables... and even flowers are grown as microgreens. The increasing culinary demand as well as the ease with which microgreens can be grown, even by inexperienced gardeners in urban settings, has piqued interests in growing and eating them.” Studies done so far have measured a wide array of nutritional aspects between different varieties and between crops grown with soil or hydroponic methods. They also state that more studies are needed on the cultivation methods in relation to the nutritional content of the microgreens, so there is a lot of experiments to conduct in the future.
So, what was this study about?
It is a direct comparison of microgreen broccoli in comparison to the mature broccoli on a nutritional and environmental standpoint. It also takes a comprehensive look at the amount of water, time, and fertilizer put into the microgreens vs the mature broccoli to produce equal amounts of nutrients.
And the results?
“Regardless of how they were grown, microgreens had larger quantities of Mg, Mn, Cu, and Zn than the vegetable. However, compost-grown microgreens had higher P, K, Mg, Mn, Zn, Fe, Ca, Na, and Cu concentrations than the vegetable. For eight nutritionally important minerals (P, K, Ca, Mg, Mn, Fe, Zn, and Na), the average microgreen:vegetable nutrient ratio was 1.73” (Weber).
That's 173% more nutritious than mature broccoli!
That means that, if we assume the, "microgreens are 1.73 times more nutritious than the vegetable on a per gram basis, one would need to eat 42% less mass of microgreens" in order to have the equivalent nutrition to mature broccoli florets (Weber).
Not only that, but they also state that according to the data, "broccoli microgreens would require 158-236 times LESS water than it does to grow a nutritionally equivalent amount of broccoli vegetable," And with a "93-95% reduction in production time," (Weber) it is my opinion that microgreens as an alternative will help save the fresh water left on the earth! Also consider the production of fertilizer and pesticides that are no longer needed when cultivating microgreens.
So, what's the catch??
"In order to sustain broccoli microgreen production, broccoli plants still need to be grown to maturity out in the fields for the purpose of seed production. The amount of seed that would be required to produce broccoli microgreens as a primary food crop remains a question," (Weber). More study is needed in this area as well. We here at Microlicious have done our own studies of how much seed can we use to get a better yield and what is the tipping point where we don't get any more yield from any more seeds. If more people were to grow microgreens, we would have to ramp up seed production locally and nationally in order to sustain a steady supply for everyone. Another downside to microgreens is their relatively short shelf life. After cut, some varieties last only a week, and some can last up to 3, safely stored in the crisper with minimal moisture. However, this does encourage people to buy from a local business or learn to cultivate a few trays a week for your own consumption. Most baby or large leafed greens only last about 4-7 days once they get to your fridge anyways.
Consider this too:
Remember that food shipped in from long distances costs the environment a lot in fuel and air quality. Plus, what was sprayed on that leafy green or vegetable? EWG's website says that according to the USDA, "Kale and Spinach samples had, on average, 1.1 to 1.8 times as much pesticide residue by weight than any other crop," ( https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary.php ). Eating organic is a great plan, but they still can get sprayed with pesticides. Microgreens are a great alternative to that because if you grow them yourself, you know everything that was put into that plant's growth and what it took in up until this point.
So, hopefully you have learned something interesting from this study. If you wanna dive in deeper, follow the link below. And if you really are that interested, comment here or send me a message and we can talk about this subject! Contact info can be found under "Contact Us" and at the bottom of every page on our website.
I will be posting a podcast soon as well, diving deeper into this subject.